Noel Turnbull (Crikey, 13/03) jumped
on the bandwagon and launched a scathing criticism of Commonwealth Games
organization and Ron Walker. The common theme of Turnbull’s article seems to be
his short memory. Six years ago, before the Sydney Olympics, the organizers were
lampooned by everyone for botching the organizing of the games. In the end, the
games were a great success and those very same organizers were feted.
Melbourne’s
magnificent Southbank district with crowds of more 50,000 yesterday (the Labour
Day public holiday) showed ample proof that the Games will be a success – even
without the massive international draw cards that make the Olympics such a
phenomenon. The other real advantage that Melbourne has as a games venue (that
even Sydney lacked) is that virtually all major sports are located very close to
each other adjacent to the city centre (rather than in the western suburbs like
Homebush).

As for the comment that Ron Walker
undertook a “petty minded exclusion of an IOC delegate [he] doesn’t like”,
Turnbull’s memory must really be failing him. The decision to ban AOC delegate
Phil Coles from receiving a free ride to
Melbourne was
undoubtedly a decision supported by many Victorians. We still have not
forgotten, and certainly have not forgiven, Coles for his alleged involvement
in sabotaging Melbourne’s 1996 Olympic bid and the infamous “clinking of
champagne glasses” after Atlanta was awarded the rights to hold what many
believe should have been Melbourne’s games (see here). The most damning evidence of Coles’ treachery were the
alleged 44 calls which he made to
Australia’s rival
bidder, Atlanta, during the
bid period. Of course, the fact that Coles’ home town of
Sydney just
happened to win the rights to the next games did nothing to ease suspicions.

Throw in Coles’ “severe reprimand”
from the IOC for allegedly accepting more than $64,000 in bribes from
Salt Lake
City organizers and $10,000 in gold
jewellery from the Athens bid team
and Walker’s decision
to ban Coles seems wholly justified. One suspects that had Phil Coles been a
member of any organization other than the IOC, his alleged crimes would earn him
an invitation to a prison cell, rather than a corporate
box.

Peter Fray

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